EDITORIAL: Support AD Carla Williams’s Vision for Virginia Athletics

Williams’s focus on investing in U.Va.’s football program will strengthen the entire athletic department

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Carla Williams is the Virginia Director of Athletics.

Andrew Walsh | Cavalier Daily

When Carla Williams started her term as athletic director last December, she articulated a clear vision for the athletic department at the University. Her experience working in athletic administration at Florida State, Vanderbilt and most recently at the University of Georgia has guided her to determine that the University’s football program presents the most pressing challenge for the athletic department. The health of the football program affects the strength of the entire athletic program, so addressing the structural challenges in the University’s football program should remain Williams’s priority. The Board of Visitors and the University’s administration should support Williams’s vision for Virginia athletics and continue to address shortcomings with respect to the football team. 

Deficiencies in facilities, coaching and support staff make the University less competitive in attracting top recruits who excel in academics and athletics. The University’s funding and investment in its football program trail peer institutions with strong academic and athletic programs — including Stanford, Notre Dame and Michigan. Williams argued that recruits are “going to choose the schools that they think are making an investment in their futures.” In order to demonstrate that the University takes seriously the rigorous commitments associated with being a student-athlete, the Board of Visitors and administration should continue with plans to invest in upgrading training facilities for the football team. 

Luckily, the Board of Visitors and Williams agreed that University Hall should be demolished. The aging stadium — which still houses offices and team facilities — is in a state of disrepair. Interior paint is peeling off the walls, and the inner bowl is padlocked to quarantine asbestos. Such a state of neglect is unacceptable and the demolition of University Hall marks the start of a longer process of bringing facilities up to the standard of rivals both in the ACC and outside the University’s conference. The Board of Visitors’ approval of a master plan for the athletic department — which includes the construction of new facilities for the football team — has already increased interest among recruits. 

Not only does an underperforming football team dampen student and alumni interest in Virginia athletics, it results in significant financial losses to the University. The stadium has a total capacity of 61,500. Last year, however, the average attendance for home football games at Scott Stadium was 39,398. Unsold tickets represent a loss of millions of dollars to the University. 

The University’s challenges in attracting competitive recruits remain the underlying cause to the lack of interest in games and the team’s lackluster performance in recent years. Williams explained, “We know, in order to get people in the stands, the product on the field has to be attractive. How do you do that? You have to be able to attract better players.” 

One of the most outstanding aspects of the University's athletic department is its emphasis on academic excellence. Student-athletes at the University receive exposure to a rigorous academic environment in addition to success in competition. One of the most compelling aspects of Williams’s vision for Virginia athletics is her belief that the two — often seen as mutually exclusive — can and should complement one another. The Board of Visitors and administration should continue to work with her in providing student-athletes with a worthwhile academic experience at the University. 

Core to the University’s principles is the pursuit of excellence in all endeavours. Under Williams’s leadership, the University has already made strides in addressing weaknesses in its athletic department. Although Virginia athletics as a whole have enjoyed consistent success in the ACC and nationally, the football program has failed to match the success of the rest of the department in recent years. However, Williams and football Coach Bronco Mendenhall have started to revive the strength of Virginia football. The Cavaliers are currently ranked 23rd nationally in the NCAA’s college football rankings, and are ranked first in the ACC Coastal division. Such success bodes well for the entire athletic department and the University as a whole. 

The Cavalier Daily Editorial Board is composed of the executive editor, the editor in chief and three at-large members of the paper. The board can be reached at eb@cavalierdaily.com.

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